As Nigeria marked its 60th Independence Anniversary on October 1 this year, the Civil Rights Council (CRC) established by Social Development Integrated Centre, SOCIAL ACTION, commemorated the nation’s history with a protest march to draw attention to the surreptitious hike in fuel price and electricity tariffs across the country. It will be recalled that the Nigerian economy experienced a decline, following the COVID-19 lockdown, and many Nigerians faced biting hardship as a result. Amidst these occurrences, the Federal Government suddenly announced an increment in tariff of essential commodities such as Electricity and Premium Motor Spirit (PMS). The inflation in the cost of these commodities had negative impacts on other essential services and inevitably increased daily cost of living. This generated reactions from organized labour and Civil Society groups in Nigeria, leading to a national debate and call for mass action in the country. CRC galvanized its structures to participate in this national debate and to initiate a mass protest on the Nation’s Independence Day Anniversary.
In 2019, Social Action and its solidarity partners mobilised civic constituencies against the increasing assault on freedom of expression and democracy in Nigeria. Throughout the year, the country experienced shrinking of the civil spaces reminiscent of the dark days of military dictatorship. There was an escalation of state impunity and brazen disrespect for the rule of law in the country as exemplified by the detention of journalists, pro-democracy and anti-corruption activists in defiance of court orders. Thus, Social Action and its collaborators: the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), and other partners, Civic Media Lab (CML), Coalition For Revolution (CORE), Nigeria Intervention Movement (NIM), The Difference Newspaper and Sahara Reporters, supported by Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, organised the second edition of the Nigeria Pro-Democracy Conference, which was convened as a platform for pro-democracy activists, social justice advocates and organic scholars in Nigeria to examine the democratic practices in Nigeria since 1999 and discuss options for positive civic engagement in politics; for promoting popular power and enthroning a representative and accountable government in Nigeria.
The well-attended conference which took place at the Osun Hall, Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja on December 17, 2019, had the Theme: Reviving Popular Action for Democracy and Freedom in Nigeria. The gathering witnessed presentations by various human rights activists, all of whom agreed that the country’s democracy was endangered and that there was an urgent need to revive pro-democracy movement with a view to stopping the encroaching dictatorship tendencies under President Muhammadu Buhari.
In his opening remarks, Arochukwu Ogbonna who represented the Executive Director of Social Action, Dr Isaac Osuoka, noted that the shrinking civic and political space has led to a general state of insecurity in Nigeria and worsening social and economic conditions for the majority of citizens. Delivering the welcome address, co-convener of the conference, author and activist, Dr Chido Onumah who spoke on behalf of the organising partners, noted that the conference was put together to get people to speak with one voice on the many challenges confronting progressive movement in Nigeria, in particular, and the existential threat that millions of compatriots face on daily basis. The conveners recalled that the inaugural pro-democracy conference of December 2018, at the National Press Centre, Abuja, in the lead up to the 2019 general election, provided space for democracy activists to examine the state of the pro-democracy movement since the 1990s. The inaugural conference brought together veterans of the pro-democracy movement and younger activists and served as a platform for inter-generational dialogue on the movement of democracy in Nigeria and the state of the nation.
The conveners stressed the imperative of civic intervention of the pan-Nigerian character reminiscent of the 1990s pro-democracy movement. They noted that more people are living in extreme poverty in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world while violent conflicts are escalating.
Other activists, including Richard Mammah, publisher of the Difference Newspaper; Angela Odah; Prof Anthony Kila; Habib Dolapo; Wale Okunniyi, among others, took turns to speak on the state of affairs of the country with all of them in agreement to the urgent need to stop the encroaching fascism under the present leadership. In her remarks, Mrs. Odah, representative of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, said the conference was necessary to enable the participants add voice to the call for a stop to the encircling militarism in a democratic dispensation. She pointed out that the government of the day was using siting of projects and lopsided appointments to divide the country along ethnic and religious lines while encroaching on the rights and liberties of the citizens.
Delivering his keynote address titled: The Anti-Politics of the Buhari Administration, Dr Odion Silvester Akhaine warned that the country was heading to the point of no return.
He noted that the current leadership of the country has inflamed divisive tendencies and called for concerted effort to build alliances to save the country from collapse. He said that the legislature is a rubber stamp one, known in British history as the ‘Long Parliament’, a proxy of the executive who act in brazen compromise of parliamentary autonomy. The judiciary is peopled by political appointees without merit but programmed and intimidated to do the will of the executive. The keynote address was followed by a panel discussion during which members of the panel further dissected the issues and took questions from the audience.
In a communique drafted at the end of the conference by Mr Obinna Ezugwu and read by Mr Otedola Adeola, the conference observed as follows:
- Nigeria is fast sliding into a fascist dictatorship.
- We are confronted with a government which has no regard for the rule of law.
- Court orders are being disobeyed with impunity. Journalists and activists are arrested and detained indiscriminately.
- Sahara Reporters publisher, Omowole Sowore, Olawale Bakare, former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, among others, remain in detention despite court orders for their release. We also have journalists like Agba Jalingo and Jones Abiri who are facing terrorism charges for simply doing their jobs. These are all testimonies to the shrinking of media and civil space in the country.
- The government proposed social media bill and hate speech bill are aimed at curtailing the freedom of expression of Nigerians.
- Even though the country now houses the highest number of poor people in the world, there is a bill called finance bill passed by the National Assembly awaiting the president’s assent. The essence of the bill is to force everyone, including the mass of unemployed Nigerians to pay more taxes. According to the bill, if you have no Tax ID, you can’t have a bank account. The government has also increased VAT, introduced POS charges, all of which are aimed at further impoverishing Nigerians to make more money available for the elite to loot. The minimum wage has yet to be implemented.
- In addition to several billions of dollars that it has borrowed, the government is now seeking to borrow another $30 billion while the bulk of the 2019 budget is to be borrowed. This is an attempt to plunge Nigeria into a debt crisis and leave a heavy debt burden on the future generation.
- It has become obvious that the Buhari government has no solution to the country’s economic and social problems. The despotic approach it deploys is only a decoy to take people’s attention away from the real issues of its failure.
- Part of the challenge facing the pro-democracy movement is that unlike during the military regime when we had a vibrant civil society when it was us against the military, we are facing a different challenge today. Politicians have succeeded in dividing us along ethnic and religious lines.
- The current battle to reclaim Nigeria is complex. We need an alliance of forces that would lead to the formation of a radical pan-Nigerian organization, taking into consideration the nuances of the Nigerian situation.
- We must answer the question of the structure of the Nigerian state.
- We must all, as lovers of freedom and people who have the interest of the nation at heart, start organising to ensure that our democratic rights are protected.
- We must all begin to act, to organise in our different localities to stop the encroaching fascism. We must not rest until journalists, activists and other individuals jailed are released.
- No matter the differences we have, we must decide on a few things: accountability of those in power, regardless of who is in power. We must ensure that the right of minorities is protected and that our freedoms are guaranteed.
- We must revive and restructure pro-democracy organisations and use them to make our voices heard and sustain the tempo of our activism.
- The pro-democracy movement should stand in solidarity with student unions across the country in order to strengthen their activism. We should also stand strongly against the victimization of student union activists in our various universities.
Participants agreed that the pro-democracy conference should be held at least once every year as a rallying point for activists and citizen across the country to continue to uphold the tenets of democracy.
BY JAYE GASKIA
[PAPER PRESENTED AT THE SOCIAL ACTION CAMP 2019, OWERRI, IMO STATE, NOV 12TH TO 16TH 2019]
SETTING THE CONTEXT;
It is important to begin by making a few clarifications. First, I have taken the liberty to put the conversation we are going to have on this topic, within a defined historical context and period, that of Nigeria’s fourth republic inaugurated on May 29th, 1999, a little over twenty years ago. This necessary because a discourse of this nature, that is heavy on analysis of our democratic experience, shouldn’t be open ended, nor should it be too expansive with regards to the period of its coverage, if we are to be able to focus on the issues, which though are historically determined, but carry with them the urgency of now.
Second, the approach adopted is one that situates the present conversation within the context of the overall theme of the 2019 social action camp, which is “Democracy in Nigeria: Building Popular Power From Below.”
Third, in order to achieve this aim of congruence between theme and topic, it became necessary to approach the question of structural analysis from the perspective of critical analysis. In other words, which elements of the structure of our recent democratic experience lend themselves being abused and transformed into obstacles on the path of popular, which is essentially citizen participation in the democratic enterprise and nation-building project, and which by so doing have become challenges to, but also in a dialectical sense, the reasons for building popular power from below.
For this reason therefore focus will be concentrated on a critical analysis of these structural obstacles, because addressing and tackling them will significantly improve democratic participation experience, enormously contribute to the process of deepening democratisation and democratic consolidation, while also, tremendously increase the prospect of the nation-building project, resulting in a socially just society, built on the foundation of social emancipation, and capable of engendering qualitative social transformation.
Fourth, this discourse as presented here is heavily influenced by, and borrows profusely from personal experience of active engagement in the theory and practice of our collective struggle to remake our society, reclaim our humanity, and in the process make our own contributions towards a more qualitative humanization of the human civilization and historical experience.
GROUNDING THE CONTEXT: SOME CONCEPTUAL CLARIFICATIONS;
At this point, before we go any further, it is important that we explain our approach to certain concepts that define and frame the structural challenges of our democratic experience, and which we seek to critically analyse in order to be able to chart a path towards building popular power from below, to enable us enhance democratic participation, and be in a position to determine the content and quality of democratic consolidation in our country, Nigeria.
For this purpose, four concepts have been identified. And the intention here is to interrogate, not just simply define these concepts. These concepts are Democracy, Participation, Democratic participation, and Right to Self Determination.
So now let us begin the preparation for our journey.
Democracy And Democratic Participation: What is democracy? The most popularly accepted definition of democracy is the one attributed to Abraham Lincoln thus “Government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Implicit in this definition is already the necessity for the participation of the people. However, the problem lies in the definition of, and in the conceptualisation of what and who constitutes the people.
The word democracy itself is of Greek origin, and ancient Greece is credited with being the first human civilisation to practice democracy in recorded history.
However, whereas the definition of democracy can be said to be aspirational, the biggest challenge however is the contestation over what and who constitutes the people.
For instance, Ancient Greece where the word and practice originated was a slave owning civilisation, with more than 90% of the population being slaves.
Also, the United States [US] which today promotes itself as the global defender of democracy, has prided itself on being an exemplary democracy since its foundation. But what does the facts tell us? At the time of independence, when the independence patriots were making the declaration of independence, all the signatories to this declaration were slave owners, the American Economy was built and thrived on slavery, and slaves were not considered part of the people, and were thus excluded from participating in this democracy.
What is more, even after the abolition of slavery with the American Civil war, blacks in America still found it nearly impossible to vote until the civil rights movement one hundred years after the abolition slavery and end of the civil war!
Furthermore, until the suffragettes movement at the end of the 19th and the dawn of the 20th century women did not have the right to vote or be voted for anywhere in the world. And until the victory in the anti-colonial movement after the second world war, most of the people in the colonised countries could neither vote nor be voted for, and majority of the countries in the world could not govern themselves.
Thus whereas, democracy may indeed be government of the people, by the people and for the people, democratic participation is limited, constrained and or expanded by the response to the question of who the people are.
And all through history, the instinct and practice of ruling classes is to limit as much as possible the boundaries of what constitutes the people, hence the introduction of numerous obstacles on the path of powerless, excluded, exploited, and marginalised peoples, to constrain their ability to participate in the democratic process.
Essentially therefore, democracy and democratic participation is a contested terrain, between those who have power and wealth, who control and dominate the economy on the other hand, and those who are powerless, who are excluded from wealth, who are dominated in the economy, and who are exploited and marginalised by the powerful on the other hand.
In order words, democratic participation is contingent on, and is the outcome of the balance of class and social forces in mortal contestation over access to and control of societal wealth, and the levers of political power in the society.
The implication of this is that the quality of our democratic experience is determined by the quality of struggle to contest the democratic space with the ruling class, that is the quality and capacity of our popular movements to roll back the power and dominance of the ruling class, and ensure and enhance the unfettered participation of segments of society in the governance of the society.
People’s Right To Self Determination: The right to self determination is essentially the right of a people to govern themselves. The highest expression of this right is the exercise of independence, and the ascension to the status of an independent country.
The movement for self determination arose historically within the context of the history of evolution of humanity and of human civilisation and societies.
As human societies became more complex, they became more organised. In order to achieve more and more enhanced organised structure, primarily with respect to the ability to better exploit human and natural resources, the state emerged.
In this struggle to dominate society and nature, in this race to create the most efficient structure for this domination enterprise, ruling classes and the states over which they superintended find by the logic of their existence, the constant need to dominate and conquer not just the overwhelming majority of members of their own society who are transformed into exploited and marginalised working peoples [peasants, workers, etc], but are also compelled by the same logic and urge to dominate and conquer other human societies.
It was within this context of conquest and domination that the struggle of conquered and dominated peoples for self determination have emerged, and it is within this evolving historical context, that this struggle has also evolved.
In essence therefore, the struggle for the right to self determination and the desire for conquest and domination are tow sides of the same human historical development coin, they are two dialectically coupled moments of the same process.
Without conquest and domination, there will be no need for self-determination. Haven established this, it is important for us to now situate this within the context of our discourse.
We must raise some critical questions? Are there any groups in the Nigeria of the 4th Republic, ethnic or religious that are being exclusively, or primarily dominated and excluded because of their ethnic and or religious identity?
Is there any state in Nigeria today, that has been governed by so-called non-indigenes since 1999 – whether as governors, Speakers and or Chief Judges? That is the heads of the three arms of government? Are there anyone of the Local Government Area Councils whose governance has been in the hands of non-indigenes since 1999?
And even more importantly, are there any ethnic and or religious groups in Nigeria that are not sharply divided into a tiny minority of the rich [relatively] at one end, and a vast majority of poor [relatively] at the other end?
In other words, in today’s Nigeria, the primary contradiction is class, between the rich and the poor, between the powerful and the powerless; and furthermore, every ethnic and or religious group in this country has representatives from these two primary divides.
Nevertheless, due to the failure of ruling class leadership, the lack of patriotism of Nigeria’s ruling class, the lack of vision of this ruling class, the natural tendency towards uneven and combined development within capitalism, has been allowed to lead to a situation of grievous regional discrepancies and inequalities in the development of the country.
The most devastating consequence of this is that by a sleight of hand, this glaring manifestation of ruling class leadership failure is now deployed in the arsenal of the ruling class for divide and rule amongst Nigerians in order to prevent the potential unity of the exploited classes, and safeguard the dominance and conquest of the ruling class.
CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF NIGERIAN DEMOCRATIC EXPERIENCE ;
There are quite a few issues that seem to remain permanently contentious, and continue to trend, using the popular social media lingo in contemporary Nigeria polity.
They seem to me to have remained contentious either because the elites promoting them have deliberately or inadvertently been foggy and unclear about them; or as a result of a somewhat complacency of the wider organised citizenry which has allowed the fallacies of the ruling elites to go unchallenged; or due to a combination of both factors.
Whichever is the case, the competing factions and fractions of the ruling elite continue to exploit the fallouts from these deliberately contrived contentious issues to divide us and make it extremely difficult for their dominance to be challenged effectively.
It is important that we engage frontally with these issues because of the impact they have on our march to progress, our ability to build a socially just society, and our capacity to deepen the democratisation process.
I am very consciously using the concept of deepening the democratisation process as opposed to consolidating democracy because they mean different things.
To consolidate our democracy is to seek to stabilise and legitimise formal democracy – regular elections, party politics etc.
To deepen the democratisation process is to seek to expand democracy beyond its formal sphere, to build a socially just society with equitable distribution of wealth, where every sphere of life is democratised, and where popular participation underlies the system. It is a process that ultimately culminates in the democratic self-government and self-management of political and economic processes.
Anyway, let us return to the “contentious issues’’.
CITIZENSHIP AND INDIGENEITY:
One of the greatest obstacles to democratic participation is the question of citizenship. The challenge here is the way and manner by which ruling class governance practice, and the provision of the constitution on Federal Character, which not only requires equitable representation of the states of the federation in the public and civil services, but also seems to prescribe an indigenship criteria as the basis for representation of a state, have combined to somewhat diminish in practice Nigerian citizenship.
The implication of this specific practice and interpretation of some sections of the constitution is that citizenship seems to be based on being able to prove indigeneity of a state, rather than on residency anywhere in the federation, in obvious contradiction of the spirit and letter of the provisions of Section 15, 3, b of the Chapter Two of the CFRN 199 which provides that “For the purpose of promoting national integration, it shall be the duty of the state to …. Secure full residence rights of every citizen in all parts of the federation.”
Furthermore, nothing in the provisions of Chapter Three of the CFRN 199 as amended which deals with Nigerian citizenship provides for or justifies this discriminatory application of citizenship rights on the basis of indigenship rather than residency.
This question of universal citizenship based on residency is important and central to the question of democratic participation, because the use of indigenship has very frequently been used to constrain, and or limit the participation of residents who are non-indigenes in the democratic process and governance experience of the localities where they are resident.
This is compounded by the fact that more than half of the Nigerian population are not resident in their states of origin, and even for those few who are, they are not resident in their local governments of origin. This thus constrains the representational ability and voice of non-indigenous residents in effective participation the democratic governance and affairs of where they are residents.
Whereas affirmative actions such as federal character principle, and the quota system emanating from it are necessary and significant tools for addressing unequal development and regional inequalities, they have to be time-bound, with prescribed end dates, and must be grounded in governance policy, institutional, legislative and investment program and plan to correct anomalies, and ensure a more even development over a prescribed time frame, or they become instruments of perpetuating and deepening inequality, and of feeding pre-bendalism in order to continue to divide and rule.
As part of the process of building popular power to deepen popular democratic participation therefore, it is important that we raise the demand for the recognition in law and practice of Universal citizenship based on residency.
Every Nigerian, regardless of where they are resident in Nigeria must be guaranteed the right to a full enjoyment of their citizenship rights, including the right to participate in the political and economic life of where they are resident, as well as to participate in the governance of their country through agency of their place of residence rather than their place of origin.
For electoral purposes for instance in the 4th Republic, quite a significant number of Nigerians who are on the voters register are registered to vote in their states of origin rather than in their states of residence; hence they are compelled to be more interested in the governance of their states of origin rather than their states of residence. If they want to serve in public political office, elected or appointive, the vast majority are compelled to seek the realisation of this desire in their states of origin rather than their states of residence. Furthermore, issues around insecurity, state of the economy, and livelihoods condition of the respective citizen also combine to determine their ability to actually exercise their voting rights during elections, because of the contingencies and logistics of traveling from their place of residence to their states of origin where they are registered.
Another example is in education, where for instance in state-owned tertiary institutions, non-indigenes regardless of whether they have been resident in such a state all their lives pay higher fees than indigenes, regardless of whether they have never been resident in those states. The situation is even such that employment, promotion, and the ability to rise to the top of the institutional hierarchy is often contingent on being an indigene of the state which owns the institution.
For admission purposes into tertiary institutions it is even worse. Pupils who have attended the same Junior and Secondary Schools, pupils have all spent their entire educational career in schools within the same state where they are all resident, get admitted into public tertiary institutions on the basis of quota systems and qualifying marks allocated to their states of origin.
Except we are saying that educational disadvantage is genetic in origin, and not conditioned on the political, economic and socio-cultural structures of the lived environment, then this kind of application of federal character principle and quota system makes no rationale sense, contributes to perpetuating inequalities, and helps to reinforce primordial prejudices, in a manner that contributes significantly to the emergence of unifying popular national consciousness that can facilitate the building of popular power from below, and enhance the deepening of the democratic experience through popular participation.
THE SCOPE AND COVERAGE OF FEDERAL LEGISLATION:
One of the anomalies of our current democratic experience, particularly since the inauguration of the current 4th Republic in 1999 is the contrived and received political elite pseudo-wisdom that laws validly made by the Federal Legislature, the National Assembly [NASS] require to be domesticated by state legislatures before they can be enforced within those states.
So let us try to disentangle ourselves from this self-serving cobweb of the political elite. First Nigeria is a Federation, and a federation is a political and governance arrangement between two blocs of entities – Federal centre and the constituent federating units, who have come together to establish the federation.
In fact the constitution of Nigeria 1999 [as amended] in Chapter 1, Part 1, Section 2, subsection 2 states that “Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja”.
In a federation therefore, power is shared between the federation and its constituent units. That is why we have the Exclusive legislative list on which only the Federation can legislate on; and the Concurrent Legislative list, on which both the Federation and the federating units, in this case, the states can legislate on.
Secondly, the NASS is made up of two chambers; the Senate, in which every federating unit is represented equally, in this case 3 senators per state; and the House Of Representatives [HOR] in which states, the federating units are represented on the basis of their respective population.
In Chapter 1, Part II, Section 4, subsection 1, the 1999 constitution proceeds to vest legislative powers of the federation in the NASS, and in subsections 2, 3, & 4 proceeds to define these legislative powers with respect to items on the Exclusive list [subsection 2]. And items on the concurrent list [subsections 3 & 4].
Subsection 5 further proceeds to underlie the supremacy of the federal legislation over a state legislation where a state legislation is inconsistent with a validly made federal legislation.
The operative phrase here is ‘’validly made legislation’’. And there are established provisions of the constitution and legislative procedures for making a legislation in our constitution and in the procedures of the NASS. Only the courts, and ultimately the Supreme court can rule with finality on the validity of a law where there is any contention.
Furthermore, it is important to note that no law can be enacted without the concurrence of both the Senate and the HOR, legislative chambers within which the federating units are adequately and democratically represented.
The implication of that concurrence and passage of the law by the NASS is that the federating units, through their elected representatives have been duly consulted.
Thirdly, the territory of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not the FCT, it is all of the space that constitutes the country, that is all of the territories of its constituent units.
Fourthly, the concept of domestication of a law is alien to national law, it is instead an aspect of international law that requires that when nations enter into international agreements, treaties and conventions, the provisions of those agreements require to be incorporated into the national laws by the national legislatures in order for it to have the force of law within those countries. This is the process that is referred to as domestication.
If the legislative powers of the federation are vested in the NASS; if the territory of the Federal republic of Nigeria is the combined territories of its constituent units, including the littoral space; and if a federal law shall prevail over any laws made by the state assemblies that is inconsistent with the federal law; then it follows that any law validly made by the NASS assembly is a law valid and enforceable across the entire territory of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The implication of this, and the only logical conclusion that can be drawn from this is that any Federal Law, or any Law validly made for the Federation of Nigeria, by its NASS is a law valid across all the territory of the federation, and one that requires no domestication.
And this is without prejudice to the power of the State Assemblies to make laws on items on the concurrent legislative list for their respective states. It only means that states can legislate on any item on the concurrent legislative list irrespective of whether the NASS has already legislated on it; but only subject to the fact that it must not be inconsistent with the Federal legislation.
JUSTICIABILITY OF CHAPTER TWO OF THE CONSTITUTION;
Another of such contrived contentious issues is that with respect to the justiciability or enforceability of the provisions of Chapter Two of the 1999 constitution.
The popular, received and conventional wisdom is that the provisions of this chapter, titled Fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy, unlike those of Chapter Four, titled Fundamental Rights, are not justiciable and enforceable.
However, a careful reading of all the twelve  sections of this chapter, from sections 13 through 24, shows that each of these sections is qualified with the verb ‘’shall’’. Each of the sections of this chapter includes the qualifying phrase “The state …….., All organs of government etc ….. Shall …….”.
Shall is an obligatory verb, not a conditional verb. If the drafters of the constitution intended these provisions not to be mandatory, and to be be voluntary subject to cherry picking, the operative verb would have been “May”; and the operative phrases would have been “The State …. All organs of government etc ….. May” ….
The implication of this, and the logical conclusion that can be drawn is that the provisions of Chapter Two of the 1999 constitution are obligatory on the state and citizens; and to that extent are enforceable and justiciable.
DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT AUTONOMY;
One of the more popular phrases thrown around like that of restructuring Nigeria is that of Local Government Autonomy.
And because state governments have been encroaching unconstitutionally on the autonomy of Local Governments there have been agitation for Local Government reforms.
It is important to state clearly that there is an urgent necessity for the reform of local government in Nigeria. However, the way to do this is to enforce the provisions of the constitution and include punishments for violating the provisions of the constitution with respect to local governments, by state governments, through necessary amendments to enforce the provisions of the constitution.
The 1999 constitution in Chapter 1, Part I, Section 7 already guarantees a system of democratically elected local government councils.
The implication of the combined reading of all the provisions of section 7 is that only democratically elected local government councils are recognised by the constitution. Therefore, caretaker committees, sole administrator-ships are alien to the constitution, and to this extent are therefore unconstitutional.
No reading of the provisions of the constitution however liberal can legitimise the practice of appointing caretaker committees and or sole administrators for local government councils. The functions conferred by law on the Local governments are also clearly set out in the fourth schedule to the constitution; and the combined reading of subsections 5 & 6 of section 7 of the constitution is to the effect that statutory allocations to Local governments are guaranteed, and that these shall be ensured by both the NASS and State Assembly.
In fact, subsection 3 of section 7 mandates local government councils to participate in the economic planning and development of the local government area, and further requires that to this end an Economic planning board shall be established by law enacted by the state assembly for the local council area.
It follows that two key things are necessary to be undertaken in the course of local council reform to further guarantee their autonomy.
First the violations of the combined provisions of section 7, Chapter One of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria must be explicitly punished. Provisions for these needs to be included in any amendment. These provisions may include setting up an ombudsman body to oversight compliance with the constitutional provision.
Second, once the constitutional guarantee of democratically elected local council governments have been strengthened, it will be necessary to then de-list the names of the LGAs from the constitution, so that states as federating units, and in accordance with the provisions of the constitution can then decide and establish any number of such local government areas as may be deemed necessary for the development of the state.
The current context of deepening and heightening insecurity in the country is once again bringing to the fore, the question and place of local governance in societal and national development process. From the unending quest for local government autonomy, through the quest for a more effective role for traditional rulers, and upto the renewed conversation around community policing, in reality the issues being raised are simply those around effective organisation and administration of communities to ensure enhanced mobilisation and deployment of community resources in the service and upliftment of the community in a manner that will enable the all round development of the human member of the community.
And if we are to identify a major gap and Faultline in the democratic experience of Nigeria, in the overall governance architecture, and in the ability for enhanced organised, self-conscious participation of the people in governance; this would be the absence of formal democratic, self-governing governance institutions and mechanisms at the community level. Put differently the absence of the community level as a tier of formal governance is a major foundational fault of not only of our democratic experience, but also of our national building project.
But what is the background to this conviction about the need for community self-government, that will be politico- administrative in nature, and that will have as its sole aim, the protection, advancement, promotion, and achievement of the Development Rights of the Community?
Haven been part of development work in local communities for close to a decade as a civil society personnel, and haven observed and studied development work in these local communities, one has come to identify a major contradiction.
In spite of decades of community development work, local communities have remained, pauperized, undeveloped, and rural. Instead, what we find is a littering of the community landscape with abandoned, defective, dying, and dilapidating Community Development Projects.
The reason for this, is the dispossession and disempowerment, of local communities that have become enhanced, strengthened and entrenched over the decades by the very developmental process designed to ameliorate the local conditions.
Development infrastructure come to the communities, from the outside, yet rural infrastructures are essentially community infrastructures; it is externally driven in terms of funding, administration, etc and yet communities are expected to sustain these projects, without a fundamental transformation of social relations, particularly the community’s relationship with, and access to structured political power.
Critique Of The Current Local Governance Reality –
What is happening in Nigeria today is not just the over centralization of power in the federal government. In relation to the local government there is in fact a greater over centralization of power in the state governments. When state government actors canvass for devolution of power, the local government system is not factored into the equation at all. They, that is these state actors, in fact mean devolution of more powers to the state level.
As things are presently, there is no form of formal governance going on in local communities anywhere in Nigeria. What communities are burdened with are decaying and incongruous traditional institutions, which apart from exercising socio-cultural influence over the people, have no politico- economic authority of over the affairs of the communities. Of course, local communities have over the decades and centuries, evolved informal governance structures, such as Community Development Councils / Community Development Associations (CDC’s / CDA’s), among others; these structure have remained politically powerless in terms of carrying out actual and formal democratic self-governance of the communities.
The local government governs in any effective way only the local government’s headquarters, the other communities in the local government area are excluded in any formal, statutory, accountable, responsible and effective way from the government and governance. They may have representatives in the local council government, particularly in its legislative assembly, but these reps merely go to the headquarters to attend council meetings, and that is all. Yet it is at the community level that the efficacy, efficiency, effectiveness and beauty of participatory democracy can be most manifested.
But alas, at the moment what happens is that all manner of development agencies from the federal, state and local governments, to civil society organizations, and international agencies, all clear their own paths into the bemused communities, claw out their own breathing space, and proceed to put into effect, their own, and oftentimes competing and even contradictory development agenda in these communities. There is no synergy, there is no central community co-ordination authority, and none of these agencies is responsible and, or accountable, in any effective, direct, or obligatory, manner to the communities. In fact, communities relate with these development agencies as they would with a messiah come to save them, a Daniel come to judgment.
Community Participation and so-called ownership is built into some of these processes, particularly those by progressive civil society organisations, through unequal encounters between community informal institutions, and the representatives of these development agencies.
The Case For Democratic Community Self-government –
There is a very urgent and compelling need for communities to be enabled to evolve and nurture democratic self-government institutions which will become statutorily and legally recognized as a constitutional tier of government and be constitutionally guaranteed. Communities should be enabled to establish community governments which will be composed of elected representatives of the various segment to of the community; primarily residents and residents groups, such as clans, compounds, extended families; and which will also include delegated (that is elected by their peers) representatives of the various informal groups and associations; including youth, women, livelihoods and artisan groups, as well as from the CDC / CDA.
This community government organ should elect its own chairperson, and secretary, and constitute statutory committees to handle various areas of the community’s life, but with its sole focus being organizing, coordinating and leading community development efforts.
But beyond this as a government, it must also have access to statutory allocation of resources, as well as, have some categories of revenue that it should be left to collect in order to generate resources for its own developmental efforts. What this means is that communities should be allowed significant percentage shares of royalty and rent collected from businesses exploiting their natural resources and operating in their domain.
This presupposes that ownership of natural resources will revert to communities, who then go on to exercise control over their management, exploitation, and the distribution or disbursement of benefits arising out of their natural resource endowment and exploitation.
Fundamentally though, a community government should be a government for the entire residents of the community, and not a government of only indigenes, and representative role in such a government should be based on residency in the community.
In this context, the traditional institutions can be integrated in a modernised and reformed manner to play an oversight role over the elected community government.
INSECURITY AND POLICING :
Against the backdrop of rising wave of spiralling insecurity across the country, with the intensification of the Herders/Farmers conflicts; the increasing frequency of kidnapping and abductions of school pupils, by both insurgents and pirates; and general worsening levels of crime; the calls for overhaul of the security architecture, and along with this, the call for the establishment of State police and community policing have been gaining in stridency and urgency.
But what exactly does it mean to have state police established across the states, which are at present the constituent units of our federation? What will this process entail? What are the likely challenges/ And how might these be mitigated and or prevented? And within this context, what does community policing mean?
To have state police services established across the country will require a number of foundational things; including primarily the amendment of Chapter VI, Part III, B, Sections 214, 215, & 216 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. Which deals with the establishment of the Nigeria Police as the only Police Force for the Federation of Nigeria.
Consequent upon this amendment, there will then be the need to amend the Nigeria Police Act establishing the Nigeria Police; while each of the states of the federation through their state Houses of Assembly will then have to enact laws for the establishment of their own respective police services.
But even before they will be able to do this, Internal Security will also have to be moved from the Exclusive Legislative List of the Federation to the Concurrent list, to enable State Houses of Assembly [SHAs] to legislate on the establishment of their own respective police services.
This movement from exclusive to concurrent list will require the prior amendment of the First Schedule, Parts I & II of the 1999 CFRN as amended.
Now these are the foundational things that are required, and any one serious about establishment of state police will have to develop a schedule and plan of action for a legislative and policy agenda to make this happen.
There are, however, other secondary, but equally very important issues that require to be addressed. Primarily, without ensuring the affirmation of universal citizenship by Residency as already provided for by the 1999CFRN as amended in Chapter Two, Section 15, subsection 3, b [which makes it obligatory for the state to protect residency rights of all Nigerians wherever they may be living in Nigeria].
This has implication for the question of the character of such a police service; will it be a police service for the residents of the state or exclusively for the indigenes of the state: Will recruitment into such a service be on the basis of residency, with a requirement for a determined number of consecutive years of residency in the state, or will it be based on being an indigene of state regardless where the person is resident? And consequently, will promotion and career advancement be based on merit or will it be enhanced or constrained by such a personnel’s state of origin? The issues being raised here are central to the determination of the character of the police service as a police formation for the state’s residents, or a legalised ethnic militia.
The next issue deals with the question of mandate and delineation of area of jurisdiction. What will be the relationship between the state police services and the Federal Police? Or between the state police service of one state, and that of another state in cases where they are dealing with and investigating crimes across multiple jurisdictions and state borders; or even in cases where there are boundary disputes between adjoining states?
One implication of these is that what will amount to state and federal jurisdictions with respect to crimes will have to be very clearly spelt out. For instance, it may require that distinctions be made between Federal and state crimes; with federal crimes being crimes designated by Federal laws, over which the Federal authorities can legislate; while state crimes will be crimes designated by state laws over which state authorities have legislative powers.
Furthermore, it does mean the distinctions between the Federal and State Hight courts will have to become clearer, with the Federal Police prosecuting Federal crimes at the Federal High Court, while the state police prosecute state crimes at the state high court.
Another inherent implication is that the prisons and correctional system will also have to be reformed. Will the state police prosecuting state crimes, through state courts, have a state court upon conviction sentence a criminal to serve their prison terms in the Federal prisons system? Wouldn’t it be logical for states to then also have their own prisons and correctional facilities systems in place?
There is also a third inherent implication which is around the question of coordination and synergy – vertical as well as horizontal – between and among the different levels of policing across the country. There will almost always certainly be a need for the Federal police to collaborate and coordinate with the state police even where because of jurisdiction they have the lead. This is because even Federal crimes committed within the borders of Nigeria will most likely be committed within state territories, hence the need to have some sort of coordination and synergy between federal and state police.
There will also be instances where state police services from different jurisdictions will have to collaborate and coordinate, particularly where crimes have been committed across more than one state police jurisdiction, or where a suspect has escaped the jurisdiction where a crime was committed to another jurisdiction. And some of these instances will also include the necessity to involve and coordinate with the federal policing authorities as well.
So evidently there will be a huge potential challenge with delineation of mandate and jurisdictions, as well as with the consequent necessity for coordination, collaboration and synergy.
Finally, on the issue of community policing, this is essentially a strategic approach to policing that embeds the entire policing formation and operations within communities. It is oriented on building a mutually dependent relationship between policing and the community and establishes a living mechanism for building trust and confidence between policing and the community, while ensuring community and citizen oversight of policing in the communities.
ESTABLISHMENT OF REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT COMMISSIONS;
One craze fashionable among the political elites is the competitive race to federally establish regional development commissions.
Whereas the establishment of special commissions to address historical disadvantages are necessary and ought to be encouraged; it is the mode of their establishment that weighs significantly on the Federation and combine to heighten group tensions.
In their current forms, they are merely conduit pipes for cornering shares of the proverbial national cake by regional elites.
Every regional commission established through Federal legislation disempowers rather than empowers the disadvantaged regions. It takes some of the powers of the region over its own autonomous development away from the region and vests it in the federal government.
Thus, the Federal government establishes the commission, and constitutes its governing board and management, and also funds it, exercising considerable influence over its sources of funding and the allocation and disbursement of such funds.
The implication of this is that the Federal government thus takes over the power to determine the strategic policies and directions of these reginal commissions, from appointments to design, planning and implementation of intervention programs.
Of course, the Federal Government also funds the commissions. The implication being that resources which ought to accrue to the Federation Account and then allocated to the tiers of government are diminished. Ultimately the shares of the federating units of the federation account is the one most affected and most undermined.
If Nigeria’s political elites are not simply and only interested in access to, control and looting of collective treasury; if they are genuinely interested in human development and empowerment of citizens, and not just in their own greed and selfishness; if they were Nation Builders, and not Nation Wreckers; then there ought to be a different, more human and national development oriented path towards addressing disadvantages.
What we should be encouraging as not just a way of deepening democratisation, strengthening Federalism, and enabling equitable nation building is a system whereby the state governments of each region desiring a regional development commission, jointly establish such regional commissions through the simultaneous enactment of the Regional Development Commission Establishment Act by their respective state assemblies.
This way they retain control over the strategic direction and thrust of the regional development commission.
As a way of guaranteeing the funding base of such regional commissions jointly established by states within the region; we can then have a Federally established Special Development Commission and Fund, that also contributes to the funding of the regional commissions in addition to the statutory funds contributed by the establishing state governments.
In this respect, it seems to me a further weakening of the Federal arrangement, that tilts the balance of power predominantly to the Federal centre to continue to seek to enact Federal laws to establish Federally funded and controlled regional development commissions.
Section 83 of the 1999 constitution which already vests in the NASS the power to make law for the establishment of contingency funds already lays the foundation for the establishment of such a Federal Development Intervention Contingency Fund, from which Regional Commissions jointly established by collaborating states can draw part of their funding.
LEGISLATIVE CONSTITUECY OFFICES:
One of the biggest anomalies of our democratic experience since 1999, is the phenomenon of a democracy without democrats that we are saddled with.
We have found ourselves as a nation where the ruling class is not only lacking in creative energy, it is also lacking in the capacity to organise, run and practice a democratic system of governance of any sort.
It is why political parties are not membership based, and why they are characterised by the weakness of, or absence of internal democracy.
By our laws, every legislator at federal and state level representing a designated federal or state constituency is expected to have a functional constituency office. However, the practice is that in a majority of cases there are no constituency offices, and in the few cases where there is an office, it is neither staffed nor functional, and is seldom open for activities.
It is important to note that the primary rationale for the existence of constituency offices, which is mandatory by law, and the upkeep of which each legislator receives allowances and funding, is to ensure that there exist a designated forum and arena, for a structured engagement between the elected legislators and their constituents.
The constituency office is expected to provide the interface for the citizens as constituents to engage with their elected representatives on key policy and other governance issues as it relates to the discharge of the functions of Oversighting executive action, making laws for the wellbeing of the citizens and peace of the federation, and that of qualitative representation, through a process of engagement that enables the aggregation of the interests and views and concerns of constituents such that these can then be channelled to influence and shape governance.
The absence or weakness of such key institutional components of our democratic practice, creates an environment that limits and constrains citizens participation in governance, and the democratic process.
This is one clear potential terrain for the active engagement of organised social forces and formations of the people, to build popular power from below, towards deepening the democratisation process.
POLITICAL PARTIES AND THE POLITICAL ELITE:
Any serious, critical and rational analysis of our democratic experience since 1999 cannot but conclude that the most serious threat, the clear and present danger to our democracy is the political elite, the ruling class and their political parties.
The experience since the inception of the fourth republic has shown clearly that the political parties organised by the different factions and fractions of the ruling elite have been nothing other than organised criminal enterprises, put together for the sole purpose of grabbing political power, and with this, gaining unhindered access and or control of the levers of economic power and the treasury.
The political parties of the ruling class factions are united by only one purpose the quest for primitive accumulation of wealth by individuals and alliances of individuals.
The parties are not membership based; members are recruited as stocks to be traded on the political stock exchanges by the chief brokers called Godfathers. The parties have no shared and commonly owned programs, policy thrusts, national visions, etc. And although documents like constitution and party manifestoes exist in fulfilment of the requirement of the law, the constitution of the party is routinely breached and broken by party stakeholders, while the manifesto has no meaning, or significance to the party and its membership beyond its existence.
Little wonder that a class incapable of observing its own party constitution, behaves with impunity in public office with respect to serial breaches of the country’s constitution and laws. A political class with scant or no interest in its own party manifesto as an instrument to shape policy debates for governance, will also have scant or no interest in practice and deployment of processes towards systematic policy formulation and consistent policy implementation for good governance while in government. Furthermore, a political class, that runs its political parties without consultation and to the exclusion of the majority of its membership, will also not be interested in, or be able to practice widespread consultation and deploy inclusive processes for good governance while in office.
On none of the pressing existential challenges facing the country can we point to what approximates the clearly articulated, and commonly shared official position and policy of any of the main parties of the ruling class. It is why it easy for politicians to move from party to party at will, with impunity, without consequence, and with no real impact on our national development trajectory.
The nature and character of our ruling political elites and their political parties has thus become the most significant obstacle on the part of popular participation in governance to deepen the democratisation process. One of the main task for the process of building popular power from below, is the urgent necessity to build new types of mass based, human development oriented political parties.
APPROPRIATION POWERS OF THE FEDERATION;
A further contentious area in the contemporary practice of Nigeria’s polity is the contention between the Executive and Legislature over passage of annual budgets or appropriation laws.
Sections 80, 81, & 82 of the 1999 constitution makes copious an seemingly unambiguous provisions with respect to the power to appropriate.
This is vested in the legislative assembly. However, with respect to the appropriations act and the annual budget, the constitutions vest the power to prepare the estimates and to lay it before the legislative assembly in the President or Governor of a state, that is in the Executive arm of government; while vesting the power to consider and approve the estimates in the legislature.
The implication is that the constitution in keeping with the principle of separation of powers vests the power to prepare and lay the estimates in the Executive; while vesting the power to consider and approve in the Legislature.
It stands to reason that the power to approve includes the power to reject, while the power to consider also includes the power to vary the estimates.
However, the power to reject and vary the estimates made and presented by the Executive cannot be deemed to be so broad as to imply the power to significantly alter the estimates.
Once the prepared estimates are significantly altered, it becomes the usurpation of the power to prepare.
It is this delicate balance between varying and significant alteration that needs to be maintained and jealously guarded.
It requires a significant level of political maturing of the operators of the constitution, combined with a significant level of understanding of national interest for this delicate balance to work effectively.
Alas, unfortunately we are saddled with a political elite and ruling class consumed by greed and selfishness, and incapable of appreciating and promoting collective interests.
CONCLUSION: BUILDING POPULAR POWER FROM BELOW;
What roles therefore can we as progressive forces and social formations play in reinventing politics and citizenship? In what ways might we organise to build popular power from below to enhance popular participation in the democratic experience and deepen the democratisation of our polity and our social reality. How might we play such roles? What have been the obstacles to our effectively playing this role?
How might we organise and mobilise around issues such as the structural fault lines identified above, in a manner that can help to galvanise a popular mass movement, and enable the building of popular power from below?
The role of progressive social forces is to understand the conditions of living and working of the mass of the people; the nature of their domination, subjugation and exploitation; the nature of their exclusion; to bring this knowledge to the wider populace, and use it in facilitating the organisation and mobilisation of the resistance of the subordinate classes and fractions, and excluded groups. Our task is to work with the victims of the system in making them conscious of the reasons for their conditions, and working together to organise and mobilise the kind of platforms and movements; and the methods of struggle that can enable them not only to influence power, but to essentially transform power; such that they become the subjects and not objects of their own societal existence.
In undertaking this task, it is important for us to understand the necessity and urgency of intervening in the routine day to day survival struggles of our people, while understanding the utmost importance of prioritizing the political struggle for power. This is because ultimately it is through political power, state power, that the building or transformation of modern society is coordinated. Those who control access to power and who wield power are the ones who lead the shaping of society, and whose influence and interests are predominantly reflected in the social transformation process.
Several other lessons can be summarised from our history of struggle; And we do have an historic opportunity, opened up by the window of the January Uprising of 2012, an opportunity limited in time and space.
The crisis of governance has reached such an extent that the ruling class is in a state of heightened internal crisis. The ruling party is on the brink of a catastrophic implosion; while the opposition parties are in a hasty race to pull together a contraption strong enough to supplant the imploding ruling party. Both the ruling party and the merging opposition are united by the fact that they seek power not in order to transform society or ease the burden on citizens; but to have access to the collective wealth of society, in order to gain or retain the right of plunder.
But because the January Uprising has radicalized and politicized hundreds of thousands, if not millions of citizens, this intra ruling class political crisis is taking place within a historically different context; in the context of a socially and politically awakening citizenry.
Here in lies the historic opportunity; How do we intervene as progressive social forces, in a manner that hastens and quickens the level, intensity of the political radicalization of the citizenry; and facilitates the conversion of raw anger into political determination; and which transforms emerging active citizens into political activists for social transformation. How can we gain political capital from the January Uprising?
There are a number of options; we can facilitate a process whereby the ruling elite politicians become the beneficiary of the anger and increasing radicalization and politicisation of the citizenry. So we can help the opposition to harness this anger, and to come to power, in the hope that in power the opposition will behave differently from its class twin, and commit class suicide.
Or we can actually work together with the broadened constituency opened up to us since the January Uprising, to build alternative political platforms, independent of ruling class parties, and autonomous of ruling elite influence; and use this platform to build up a mass political momentum towards the general the electoral space with the ruling class in the first instance; and bid for state power with the parties of the ruling elite, on the basis of our own social program of transformation, one that if implemented will enable us carry out a most far reaching redefinition and broadening of the boundaries of politics and citizenship in our country.
We need to build political parties of a fundamentally new type, parties of the social movements, a movement party. We need a movement party that can take the street and the protest movement into parliament and bring the parliament and politics into the street.
For me there can be only one choice; to build alternative, independent and autonomous political platform to among other things contest political power with the parties of the ruling class; realising that state power is located is located in different centres of society.
The former choice is a manifestation of our continued implementation of the policy of self-limitation; wherein we underestimate our capacity; and we make ourselves available as junior partners in alliances with so called progressive wings of the ruling class, and or with reformist bureaucracies of labour centres.
And the end result of self-limitation? Co-optation of individual leaders and leading activists, and the destruction or weakening of our movements, by the ruling class!
Every year civil society, community-based groups and concerned stakeholders meet at the Nigeria Social Action Camp to study and consider alternative theoretical positions, ideas and skills needed to serve as agents of positive change in various communities in the process of Nation building. The aim has always been to build solidarity for change through collective learning of alternative ideas to the dominant neo-liberal tendencies that currently dominate the Nigerian political space.
This year, the camp held at the Anglican Church Conference Centre, Owerri Imo State from the 12th -16th, November 2019.
The camp programme teed off with the opening ceremony where the Programme Officer, Arochukwu Paul Ogbonna Esq., welcomed all participants to the 2019 Social Action camp and reminded them of the ground rules for the camping. He reiterated that camp is for learning and encouraged everybody to participate actively in all activities designed for the programme.
While welcoming the participants to the camp, the Executive Director of Social Action, Dr. Isaac Asume Osuoka berated the political class for deliberately stunting development through corporate looting, over-bloated personnel and overhead bills to support and sustain their lavish lifestyle. In the address presented on his behalf by Peter Mazzi, he said the panacea to the dysfunction in what is experienced in Nigeria’s democracy today is building and strengthening grassroots citizen organizations, committed to principles of union democracy. He said it was most unfortunate that the voice of the press and the people have continually suffered shrinking space with policies of successive civilian leaders over the years. He then charged the participants to chat a new democratic roadmap with informed, energized, active advocates and agents of change poised to exert their constitutional rights and open up the democratic space for participation in the social and political scheme in Nigeria.
Figure 1. Participants at the Nigeria Social Action Camp 2019
In his opening charge, Prof Andrew Efemini of the University of Port Harcourt lamented the poor state of mental and structural development in Nigeria and compared the situation of Nigeria to be akin to the state of nature where life is short, nasty and brutish. He maintained that Nigerians have not expressed themselves through acts of productivity but like apes in a state of nature, have continued to live on borrowed brains and innovations of citizens of other countries. He posited that popular power is the capacity to create popular consciousness and put in place, in a sustained manner, action plans for resisting maladministration and government tyranny and compelling government to become accountable. He concluded that It is important that as the people exercise popular power, they need to have a conception of the kind of society they want to enthrone. Only then can they make progress towards actualising shared ideology.
Figure 2. Jaiye Gaskiya and a cross-section of participants in one of the sessions
Comrade Jaiye Gaskiya added his voice to the charge of the night. He talked about the need for Nigeria citizens to build popular power and develop an appropriate channel with which to give vent to their feelings. He commented on the uprising and different forms of the revolution being recorded in such counties as Bolivia, Hong Kong, Sudan, Algeria, Chile, South Africa. Quoting Mao, he stressed that where there is repression, resistance is bound to happen.
Barr Onyeisi Chiemeke welcomed participants to the 2019 camp and gave a background history of each of the group models and emphasized that the lives of these people, particularly someone like Robert Mugabe, have contributed to sustaining the argument of strong men versus strong institutions. He commented that in all over Europe, the strong men are taking over. This effect is spreading the world over and not even such myth as the rule of law is capable of checkmating the trend. He argued that since the law is not given by God but by men, one cannot really say that all men, including those that gave the law, are equal before the law – as contemplated by the doctrine of rule of law. One’s social circumstances determine how much he can access the law, especially in countries like Nigeria where one would always need to be represented by a lawyer while pursuing his or her legal rights; this is in contrast to what obtains in India where prisoners can write from a prison to the Magistrate covering the jurisdiction of the Prisons and the Magistrate in exercise of his episcopal jurisdiction, would order an investigation to be carried out on the alleged offence of the Prisoner. Where it is established that the offender is not guilty of the charges, the Magistrate orders his/her release.
Prof Nekabari Nna Johnson in his presentation suggested that elected officials focus their attentions exclusively on their own privileges to the detriment of the people. Thus, poverty has been deepened in Nigeria and democracy cannot be sustained in an environment of poverty, neither can weak democratic systems provide for socio-economic development. Poverty has also stripped the people of the capacity to hold the leaders accountable and the lack of accountability has made elected officials less responsive to the needs of the people.
Figure 3. A Barr Bridget Anyafulu on “Sexual Abuse and the consent of the Nigerian women”
In a presentation titled “Sexual Abuse and the consent of the Nigerian women” Barr (Mrs) Bridget gave the definition of sexual violence according to the World Health Organization (WHO) as: any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwarranted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work.
She stated that sexual violence (which may involve even the male gender) can happen anywhere and is not only about penetration as in rape. It can include other forms of assault involving a sexual organ, coerced contact between the mouth and penis, vulva or anus. She encouraged participants to engage their respective representatives in the State Assemblies to domesticate the Violence Against Persons (VAP) bill which is already in operation in Abuja. The reason was that the VAP takes care of provisions and situations not envisaged by the Criminal Law.
A goodwill message was presented by Mrs Angela – on behalf of the West African Regional Representative of Rosa Luxumburg Foundation. She commended the resilient spirit of Nigerians amidst the difficulties in the country and Social Action for hosting an impactful and educative 2019 camp. She encouraged them to engage more female participants and Resource Persons, in future camping.
Other resource persons who spoke in the four-day event include Ken Henshaw, Dr. Simon Amadus, Barr Uche Wisdom Durueke, Mark Oliseh, Peter Mazzi, Arochukwu Paul Ogbonna, Prince Ekpere and Botti Isaac.
The camp program was embellished with educative film shows and documentaries, sporting activities, breakout discussion sessions and group presentations and capped with the traditional campfire.
The Civil Rights Council, a Human Rights group of Nigerian citizens mostly of rural and sub-urban backgrounds with the support of Social Development Integrated Centre – Social Action carried out series of activities in their campaign for the respect of the rule of law, human rights and justice for deprived citizens in Nigeria.
These activities have become important in view of the incessant cases of human rights abuses by security agencies across the country and impunity by state actors in the hems of affairs in government. In pursuance of the above goals of the political education project, the Civil Rights Council has been embarking on series of educational programs and other activities across many states in the Niger Delta and other parts of the country.
Human Rights Education and Sensitisation of the Nigerian Police
In other to reduce the incidences of police brutality across the country as seen in the many cases of extrajudicial killings, torture and unlawful detentions in the country, the Port Harcourt Civil Rights Council took up the programme of police sensitization and education on the issues of the fundamental human rights guaranteed in chapter 5 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended. The chapter enunciates the basic rights of all Nigerians and hence, cannot be denied anyone except by the provisions of the constitution.
Figure 1. Zero Tolerance to Human Rights Abuse organised by the Warri CRC
In an expedition of lectures across the Choba Area Command of the Nigeria Police, the Civil Rights Council group toured six out of the eight police divisions in the command including the Area Command headquarters itself. The police divisions visited were Ozuoba, Agip, Kala, Rumuepirikom, Rumukpakani, Rumuokoro special division and the Choba Area Command Headquarters. With the aid of a guest lecturer at each outing, the CRC was able to engage officers and men of the police force on the need to follow due legal procedures in their daily routine to avoid the numerous cases of human rights infraction.
The training process also provided an opportunity for the officers and men to express the challenges and hazards associated with policing in Nigeria and sought the help of the CRC to lead a campaign on issues of their social welfare. The Civil Rights Council made it clear that they will keep in touch for a human right review of inmates and other detainees in their custody.
Within the period in focus, the Civil Rights Council in Port Harcourt also mobilized the citizens and intervened in one of the cases of an attempt by a police officer to abuse a detained inmate in the Rumuokoro special division of the police force- one Mrs. Mary Ejaigba. The effort of the CRC resulted in disciplinary measures against the officers involved, recovery of money already extorted from the said lady and her immediate release from police custody with apologies from the police authorities.
Figure 2. Intervention of CRC Port Harcourt for the treatment of Mrs Richael Paul who was shot by a security detail to the Chairman of Port Harcourt Local Govt. Area
The Warri unit of the Civil Rights Council joined comrades of Edo Civil Society Organization in protest against the Benin Electricity Distribution Company. The protest was informed by the many cases of monetary extortion by the company from their numerous customers without the provision of Electric power. The CRC together with the Edo Civil Society organization extended the protests to the Federal Government at Abuja, where they lodged their complaints with the necessary government agencies.
Figure 3. Members of CRC Warri Conference
The Warri CRC also carried out a public awareness campaign on the need for a violent free general election in Delta State. This was in response to the citizens’ outcry to stem the tide of violence usually witnessed during elections in the State. The violence-free election campaigns involved rallies, road walks and education seminars.
Borri and Abuja CRC
The Bori and Abuja Civil Rights Councils also carried out a series of interventions on cases of human rights abuses in their various units of operation. For instance, the Bori CRC carried out a series of campaigns against incessant cases of police extortion, intimidation and torture in Bori Rivers State often resulting in deaths of innocent citizens in the Area. In one of their interventions, five persons arbitrarily arrested and detained at the state CID were released. The CRC intends to deepen its campaign in the coming months with the hope of providing the platform for citizen’s action for social justice.
As part of activities to mark the 23rd anniversary of the killing of nine Ogoni leaders, Social Action’s Community Advocacy Centre in Bori on 10th November 2018 organised a lecture and sensitisation program on oil pollution in Ogoniland.
Over the years Nigerian citizens lost confidence in the police because of their engagements in acts of extortion, illegal mass arrests and detention, extrajudicial killings, corruption, unfair and unjust treatments to citizens, sexual harassment to women in detention facilities, unruly behaviors and opting for the highest bidder approach on the issues of bail. As part of an effort to address these challenges, the emerging volunteer organisation, Civil Rights Council has been engaging the police on human rights training in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The theme of this year camp is EMPOWERING ACTIVISTS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS AND ANTI-CORRUPTION MOVEMENT IN NIGERIA.
From October 2–6, 2018, the Nigeria Social Action Camp, an annual event promoted by Social Development Integrated Center (Social Action) with the support of the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation held in Aluu, near Port Harcourt, Rivers State. It is part of initiatives to raise popular consciousness and participation through collaborative learning, mobilisation and solidarity for communities and activists working for environmental justice, democracy and social change in Nigeria.
The Nigeria Social Action Camp holds from October 2 – 6 at the Citizenship and Leadership Training Centre, Aluu, near the University of Port Harcourt. Dubbed the ‘Anti-Imperialism Camp’, the annual event is organized by the Social Development Integrated Center (Social Action) with the support of the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation as part of initiatives to raise popular consciousness and participation through collaborative learning, mobilisation and solidarity for communities and activists working for environmental justice, democracy and social change in Nigeria. The Camp provides an opportunity for young people from across Nigeria to learn alternative theoretical ideas and to acquire practical skills to be active participants in the evolving processes for catalysing social change in Nigeria.